Tech Pitch: Sparrho

Co-founder Dr Vivian Chan outlines the case for getting everybody engaged in science and explains why she moved her start-up from Cambridge to London

Company name: Sparrho
Founders: Vivian Chan, PhD (30), and Nilu Satharasinghe (29)
Background: Chan has PhD in biochemistry, was formerly chairman and president of the Cambridge University Tech Enterprise Club, and was a member of Entrepreneur First’s inaugral cohort
Based in: London

Very simply, what does your tech start-up do?

  • Sparrho’s mission is to democratise scientific knowledge using human and artificial intelligence.
  • Our discovery engine allows researchers and students to stay on top of the latest scientific and technological discoveries.
  • We are now tapping into this expert user pool to help translate cutting-edge research publications into non-technical pieces that can be understood by the general public.

Tell us why there’s a need – what do you disrupt?

We believe that everybody and anybody should be able to stay on top of the latest science that matters to them, whether they’re researchers, students, teachers, journalists, investors, patients, or even just curious minds.

A vast amount of the knowledge generated from taxpayer and charity-funded science is locked behind paywalls and, even when publications are free to access, the technical language used makes it difficult for those beyond specialists to fully grasp the implications of the discoveries.

Sparrho is breaking down the barriers between the research communities in which scientific discoveries are generated and discussed, and the wider society that wants to access that deep pool of knowledge.

Are you funded?

Yes, we have raised over £500,000 in external investment.

What were you doing before starting?

Chan: I’m the CEO and co-founder of Sparrho. After spending a year working in a venture fund in Australia I decided to pursue a PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge. My continued interest in the business of science and technology led me to join the Cambridge University Technology Enterprise Club (CUTEC), later becoming the president and chairman where I managed a team of 60.

After achieving my PhD, I was selected to take part in the inaugural cohort of Entrepreneur First where I met my Python teacher and Sparrho co-founder and tech adviser Niluka Satharasinghe. Since incorporating in July 2013 and closing a six figure seed round, I have overseen Sparrho’s rapid growth and now lead a team of six.

A strong advocate for women in STEM, I was invited as one of 15 female CEOs to take part in a trip to the San Francisco and Palo Alto with UKTI and Silicon Valley Comes to the UK. I was also selected as a semi-finalist for The Duke of York (UK) New Entrepreneur in 2014 and as one of Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 in 2015.

What’s the best thing about where you’re based?

We moved from Cambridge to Camden Collective in London and most recently moved to to the Ministry of Startups in Shoreditch. Each of our workspaces connected us with great networks, which have all contributed to what Sparrho is today.

We’re now immersed in a community of tech start-ups which exposes us to a plethora of agile teams with different strategies to disrupt their target verticals. Time is of course our most precious resource, and our proximity to investors, academic and industrial partners, and a large range of research universities and institutes, allows us to meet more often with our most important stakeholders face-to-face.

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